Fido and the Rainbow

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I have heard the myth that dogs are colorblind, but I have often wondered if it is actually true or not.  After doing some research I found that, they are not!  They can see colors, but they are just duller than and not nearly as vibrant as the colors humans can see.  Of course, you can't ask a dog if this is truly the case or not, but just like everything, science gives some pretty believable evidence to back this up.

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According to an article in Psychology Today, human and dog eyes contain 'cones' that respond to color.  Humans have more of these cones than dogs do, which has led scientists to draw the above conclusion.  There are different types of cones and each type is more susceptible to different wavelengths of light.  Humans have three different types of cones, which allows us to see all of the colors of the rainbow.  However, dogs only have two types.  Humans that only have two types of cones are considered colorblind and can only see select colors and the colors aren't as bright, allowing the compassion to be drawn for dogs.

Jay Neitz, a researcher at the University of California, Santa Barbara ran a study in 1989 where he tested the ability of dogs to see color.  In his study, dogs were shown three color panels.  Two of these panels were the same and one was different.  The dog had to figure out which one was different.  He confirmed that dogs do see color, but less than humans.  In general, dogs see the world in yellow, blue and grey; they can't see reds, violets, or greens like we do. 

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Another factor that is involved with dogs seeing color is that they can't distinguish between shades very well at all.  According to "," the Weber fraction (a formula to determine the ability of brightness discrimination) calculated humans to be 0.11 and dogs to be 0.22.  This means that dogs have it two times more difficult to see shades of colors.

So, next time you are shopping for a new toy for you dog, remember that they can see blue the most vibrantly and they can't see red at all.  The majority of my dog's toys and even his bed are red, so after writing this blog I think it is time to invest in some blue toys for him so he can actually see the color!

1 Comment

this is very interesting because I was supportive of the myth until you posted on it. I wonder if the dog's color spectrum is determined by emotions? like will a dog see blue if it feels depressed? or will it feel relaxed if it sees yellow? also, I wonder if the dogs cones can be altered by say laser eye surgery? I wouldn't support harming dogs but its just something to think about if that particular practice would be harmless for the dog.

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